My friend Jonathan Breul sent me a link to this article, which discusses the differences between the two main North Carolina Barbecue Styles — East North Carolina and Western North Carolina/Lexington styles. It’s a good read, and should inspire you to go eat some barbecue in North Carolina.
Jon is a barbecue enthusiast, and it’s an inspiring story. He had to overcome a youth in Fairfield County, Connecticut, then (and perhaps now) one of the Barbecue Deserts you may have read about. My heart goes out to the underprivileged of Fairfield County.
My wife, Nancy (Jon also has a wife named Nancy) also grew up in Connecticut. When we were first courting, she asked me what my favorite food was. I answered “Barbecue!” She had no idea what I was talking about. Can you imagine? And this was after college and travel all around Europe. Granted, she went to college in Massachussets, and all of Europe was a Barbecue Desert until the arrival of Pendergast. I think of Pendergast as another Marshall Plan to help a continent in need.
Nancy finally was able to taste real barbecue when she came to visit Alabama and the Florida Panhandle. We went to the Original Golden Rule. She liked it and since then she’s been happy to eat a lot more barbecue than most people. Nancy ate something she’d never eaten or, in many cases, heard of before on that trip — real barbecue, fried green tomatoes, boiled peanuts, fried okra — I forget what all. She still doesn’t like boiled peanuts. It’s sad, really, but she’s a truly wonderful person, notwithstanding.
For more information about Western North Carolina barbecue, see the posts from my two-day North Carolina Piedmont Tour de Barbecue. The places at which I ate were, in order, Stamey’s in Greensboro, Lexington #1, The Barbecue Center in Lexington, Red Bridges in Shelby, and Smiley’s and Speedy’s, both in Lexington. (You’ll note that there’s a good bit of difference between, say, Lexington No. 1 and Red Bridges.)
I had a similar Eastern North Carolina Tour de Barbecue, when I visited B’s in Greenville, the Skylight Inn in nearby Ayden, Grady’s in the greater Dudley area, and Jack Cobb in Farmville, all on an overnight trip to supplement my frequent visits to Wilber’s in Goldsboro, and Parker’s and Bill’s (which, alas, has been back-sliding), both in Wilson.
These are all great places to eat — or was a good place in Bill’s case. If you drive down I85 or I95, or if you go to Charlotte (pretty near Shelby) or the North Carolina shore, you really need to stop at one of these places. At least one. Plan your travel accordingly.